Editor's note: This blog post was originally published on January 6, 2015.
Are you in a goal-setting frame of mind? The New Year is a great time to have your child evaluate herself and her school year and set goals for a fresh start. Ask your child: How is her homework routine? Is she practicing math facts nightly or weekly? Does she have good study habits in place? These are questions every child should think about and ask to gain more responsibility and independence. And this time of year is the best time to do it!
If you're looking to use the New Year as an opportunity to set math-focused goals, here are some area to focus on.
1. Set goals together and make them visible.
Setting goals for the remainder of the school year shouldn't feel like a chore. Look for creative ways for your child to share goals: He can create a poster, write goals on colored index cards, type on the computer in fun colors/fonts, or even develop a PowerPoint presentation (complete with animation effects!). Make it easy for your child to remember the goals by placing them where he can easily read them.
2. Spend some time thinking about homework.
This point in the school year can be a moment of change for after-school responsibilities and activities. That makes it the perfect moment to review your child's homework routine and schedule and make adjustments as necessary. Are assignments being turned in on-time? Are homework corrections being made either in school or at home? Consider cleaning out and reorganizing the homework folder. Does the order in which homework is being completed need to change?
3. Make time to review math facts.
By mastering math facts, your child will be able to seamlessly know that 3+5 = 8 without having to do the addition. This bone-deep knowledge of math is essential for all four operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Often, reviewing basic math facts, like the times tables, falls to the wayside as the school year progresses, but it's extremely valuable and should be incorporated into daily or weekly routines. If your child is sick of flashcards or other memorization techniques, try switching it up. There are great apps or websites to practice math facts. You can play math games with cards or dice. Even "beat the clock" can be fun, when kids try to complete facts faster than you can do them on a calculator.
4. Instill good study habits.
Most teachers give a few days' notice for quizzes and tests. Your child should see this time between when the test is announced and when it takes place as a preparation period and begin to implement strong study techniques. Have your child review old exams and quizzes to evaluate common mistakes and understand why answers were incorrect.
5. Focus strongly on problem solving when setting goals.
Word problems are an area in mathematics that most students need to improve on. Many can solve the problem, but have a difficult time explaining and showing reason for how they solved it. Incorporating math vocabulary is a great way to increase problem-solving skills. Consider setting a goal that's age-appropriate, where children have to use one to three math vocabulary words in the problem solving explanations.
Whatever goals you and your child set for the New Year, remember to keep them attainable and within reason. The focus should not be on getting perfect test scores or being the fastest, but more about making small improvements that will have a lasting effect on your child's math knowledge.